Over the past few months, I've noticed that some employers (5-10%) are asking for applicants to put specific information in cover letter. Usually the request is for the applicant to give specific reasons why she is a good fit for the company. Today, I found a requirement that demonstrates the importance of reading job postings carefully. A company recruiting a Data Analyst lists this requirement as it's last bullet in a job post: "High attention to detail - mention the Rolling Stones in your cover letter to display your skill." This request might seem silly, but it is simple test to see how well applicants follow directions and pay attention to detail. It's easy to mock such requests. But, if you want to apply for the job, you have to jump through the employer's hoops.
One of my clients, let’s call her Jane, has recently had four rounds of interviews with a company she really wants to work for. The interview process has covered over a month, and in that time Jane has not applied for another job or done any networking. When I asked her why she’s been so passive, she said that she wants to put all her effort into getting the job she wants.
There’s one problem with Jane’s strategy: What if she doesn’t get the job? Every job search is different, but to get a job quickly, it’s important to stay focused and keep applying for new positions and networking. Jane has wasted over a month. If she doesn’t get the job she’s currently interviewing for, she will have to start her job search from scratch. It’s important to keep momentum going until you’ve received an offer you want to accept. Even if you are confident that a company is going to offer you a position, keep pursuing other opportunities. You have nothing to lose. You can always turn down interview. Better still, you might receive a better offer.
A client called with good news yesterday. She landed her ideal position at a great company. Her job search took four months, which she found a bit frustrating. I told her not to worry about that because it’s normal, especially for someone who lands the kind of job that she wants, not one that she has to take.
This story made me think about two important virtues every successful jobs seeker needs: patience and consistency. It might sound clichéd to call patience a virtue. But it’s a reality that it takes time to find a good job. While I’ve had some clients land jobs in 2-4 weeks, most job seekers will need 3-6 months to find a job. For some people that might mean taking a job to bring in income while the job search continues. That’s part of holding patience as a virtue. Every job search is different. Some will be fast and easy. Some will be long and hard. You need to adapt and keep faith in your talent.
You also have to be consistent. When clients have gotten stuck in the job search, it is often because some factor has made them stop looking for work. A good job search requires steady, constant activity: networking, identifying potential employers, responding to job posts. As one of my friends in HR likes to say, “The job won’t find you.” Instead, you have to keep plugging along in the face of disappointment. My formula is to be active at least 4-5 days per week. Hold yourself accountable by keeping a log. If you’re not recording activities for at least 4-5 days each week, you are not being consistent in the search. Expect a bad result.
I understand the frustration involved in looking for work. I’ve felt it, and it hurts. That said, if we approach this hard task with a realistic, practical outlook, we’ll be better able to put up with the frustration. If you’re steady in applying for work and patient in waiting for good things to come, the job search will not be as miserable. In fact, as you have more control over the process of looking for work, your phone will start to ring.
Job seekers sometimes hurt their chances and drag out the job search by not applying for positions because they don’t meet all of the “requirements.” Employers list several requirements to get the most versatile possible employees. Often job postings will read like a child’s Christmas list.
Don’t be intimidated by such tactics. If you look at the basic job functions and feel that you can perform them, apply for the job. Let the employer screen you out. Who knows? They may see something in your resume that will open the door to an interview.
What’s the worst thing that will happen? You won’t get a call back. Take the chance. It’s worth the effort.